Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mali Military Mutiny Raises Concern of Possible Coup

Military Mutiny in Mali Reported

Soldiers in Mali have staged a mutiny in the capital, cutting off state media broadcasts and firing on the presidential palace.

The sound of gunfire and heavy weapons was heard into the night in Bamako as disgruntled troops took control of small parts of the city.

A second mutiny was reported in the strategic northern town of Gao.

Reuters quoted a defence ministry official saying that coup d’etat was in progress. But President Amadou Toumani Touré denied this on his Twitter account.

“There is no coup in Mali. There’s just a mutiny,” his message said.

The unrest follows two months of mounting anger within Mali’s military over the response to a fresh rebellion in the north by Tuareg insurgents from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), who are trying to carve out their own homeland. The rebels have been boosted by the return of fighters who had fought for Muammer Gaddafi in Libya and brought back with them heavy arms, enabling them to outgun Mali’s army on several occasions. Dozens of soldiers have been killed and nearly 200,000 people have been forced from their homes by the fighting.

Up to now, Malian soldiers have been demanding better weapons and other supplies from the government. But on Wednesday some of the mutineers said they wanted to unseat the president.

“He needs to leave power, that is all. The movement will only stop with the taking of the palace,” a sergeant who joined the mutiny told Reuters.

Mr Touré, who has ruled since 2002, is due to step down after April’s elections.

The mutiny in the capital was sparked by the visit of Mali’s defence minister to army barracks in the town of Kati, around 13 miles from Bamako. Soldiers accused the minister of failing to arm them properly for the fight against the rebels. Rocks were thrown before troops seized weapons from the armoury and began firing in the air.

Mutineers in pickup trucks then took control of the area around the national broadcaster and forced it off the air. Clashes at the presidential palace followed in the evening. In Gao, a northern town coveted by the MNLA, soldiers took half a dozen senior officers hostage, according to reports.

France, the former colonial power, called for calm. The regional bloc Ecowas has strongly condemned the rebellion, which has far from unanimous support from Mali’s Tuareg population.

March 21, 2012, 6:15 p.m. ET

Mali Troops Storm State TV

Associated Press

BAMAKO, Mali—Disgruntled soldiers have stormed state TV and radio in Mali's capital and cut off broadcasts in a growing fallout over a northern rebellion where Tuareg separatists are besting the military.

Soldiers say Defense Minister Gen. Sadio Gassama was visiting a military camp near the presidential palace in Bamako on Wednesday when unhappy young troopers started firing into the air. They then stoned the general's car, forcing him to leave the camp in haste.

Soon after, they stormed the offices of the state broadcaster, yanking both TV and radio off the air.

The soldiers said that the campaign in northern Mali is badly managed, short of arms and food supplies. They also said the government must take better care of the families of soldiers killed in the rebellion that started mid-January. Tens of thousands of people have fled within Mali and others to four neighboring countries.

The Obama administration said it is monitoring the unrest in Mali, including reports of a possible coup in the African nation the U.S. has long held up as an example of a thriving democracy.

The U.S. Embassy in Bamako is advising Americans in Mali to stay indoors.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the situation Wednesday was "unclear and unfolding quickly." She said radio and television signals are dead. She cited reports of military forces surrounding the presidential palace.

Hours after soldiers stormed state TV and radio in the capital, soldiers reported that young recruits had started rioting at a military base located outside the strategic northern town of Gao.

A military student who was on the base when the mutiny started said that at sundown, the recruits started shooting in the air. They captured a half dozen officers, and have sequestered them. And they were going house to house looking for the commander of the camp.

Frustrated with handling of Tuareg rebellion, Mali’s military mutinies

BAMAKO— The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2012 7:32PM EDT

Disgruntled soldiers in Mali mutinied at two military bases on Wednesday and cut off broadcasts at state TV and radio, but the President insisted that the country was not facing a coup attempt.

The sounds of heavy weaponry echoed into the night in Bamako, where recruits had earlier mutinied at a military base, shooting volleys in the air.

The mutiny spread to a military base in Gao, a strategic northern town, where troops captured a half-dozen senior officers and were holding them, according to a military student at the base who requested anonymity because he feared for his safety.

A Twitter message from the account of Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré insisted Wednesday: “There is no coup in Mali.

There’s just a mutiny.”

Young soldiers are increasingly angry over the government’s failure to come to grips with a northern rebellion of Tuareg separatists. Soldiers who took part in the attack in the capital said they are doing so in order to pressure the government to listen to their demands and not in an effort to overthrow the landlocked nation’s democratically elected leaders.

But in the capital, which has weathered multiple coups, the population was on edge. Businesses barricaded their doors. Office workers rushed to get home.

Since the afternoon, both state TV and radio had been yanked off the air. Residents in the neighbourhood where the state broadcaster is located reported seeing soldiers place a machine gun in front of the TV station.

Armed men stopped cars from going nearby, and only motorcycles could navigate past the newly erected military checkpoints in central Bamako.

The Obama administration is monitoring the unrest in Mali, a nation the United States has long held up as an example of a thriving democracy in Africa.

The U.S. embassy in Bamako was advising Americans in Mali to stay indoors.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the situation was “unclear and unfolding quickly.” She said grievances should be addressed through dialogue, not violence.

Mali Military Blocks Presidential Palace After Gunshots

By Diakaridia Dembele on March 21, 2012

Soldiers in Mali blocked roads around the presidential palace in Bamako, the capital, after shots were heard earlier in the day, according to local media reports.

Soldiers were stationed in the area around the state-owned broadcaster, Radio Kledu and Journal du Mali, a news website, reported. The gunfire started just before a meeting between soldiers and Mali’s defense minister about the Tuareg rebellion that the army is battling in the country’s north, according to London-based Control Risks.

Both of Office de la Radio-Television Malienne’s radio stations and its two television channels were not broadcasting as of 6 p.m. in Bamako. Journal du Mali said its employees had been evacuated.

“The situation is currently unclear and unfolding quickly,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said today in Washington. The U.S. embassy in Bamako “is monitoring the situation closely and has advised U.S. citizens in Mali to shelter in place.”

“We understand that today the elected government met with the military forces to discuss their concerns regarding troop grievances and the conflict in the north,” she said in an e- mailed statement. “We believe that grievances should be addressed through dialogue, not through violence.”

Soldiers who fired shots into the air were demanding better arms to fight against the Azawad National Liberation Movement, Control Risks said on its website. The group, known by its French acronym MNLA, started a campaign for autonomous rule in Mali’s north with attacks on military camps in January.

The African Union Peace and Security Council expressed “deep concern” about the rebellion, and the said the crisis poses a threat to peace and stability in West Africa.

To contact the reporter on this story: Diakaridia Dembele in Bamako at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Emily Bowers at

No comments: